This is not the kind of post I would usually sit down and write. I do like to be quite open on my blog about my life but there are some things that I feel afraid to write about, or more likely, be honest about. It’s that whole “if I don’t talk about it, does it really exist” thought process. It’s wrong and I know it’s wrong.
My inspiration to get way out of my comfort zone and write this post was a friend who recently wrote a post for Time To Change, a campaign to change how we all think and act about mental health. Her post was all about the judgements people make and how it’s very difficult living with mental illness, especially when people really don’t understand what you’re going through. I am very proud of her because it must take a huge amount of confidence to be so honest and open about her own diagnosis, especially when there are so many people that just don’t understand, or are part of the ‘mental health should not be spoken about’ stigma. If you’d like to read more of Nikita’s material (you should, it’s great stuff) then you can also check out her blog: All The Unheard Voices.
In some ways I think that, before I write this post, it is important to point out that I have never actually been diagnosed with any type of anxiety. In other ways I think, why should I justify that? It doesn’t make what I’m about to say any less valid. I’m digressing because I’m nervous to even start, but here I go.
Technology is something that progresses every single day. There’s always innovation and things that already exist are constantly evolving. Growing up through my teenage years, I was lucky enough to have access to the internet and mobile phones and then mobile phones with internet, then social media and then even more social media! From the age of 11 I’d say these things have been a huge part of my life.
Another thing that has been a huge part of my life, since I’d say, the age of 11, is a fear of making phone calls and using the telephone. I think it pretty much speaks for itself what that means, but I’ll explain. Telephone phobia (as it’s known) is a reluctance or fear of making or taking phone calls. It is considered to be a type of social phobia or social anxiety. It also ties in very much with a fear of being criticised, judged or made a fool of when engaging with an audience (fear of public speaking) which I also struggle with. There is no denying that the two are linked and I have really battled with them both.
My family and my partner are no strangers to the fact that I struggle with making phone calls. To them, it’s an every day occurrence and one that they do as simply as they would putting on clothes. Almost that they can do it without even thinking. For me, it’s the complete opposite. It’s really, really hard. It’s even harder being an adult, living in a flat, having a family and bills and still struggling with it.
When I am faced with a situation where I may have to make a phone call, I start to feel panicky. It actually worries me to the point that it makes my stomach tie up in knots. It’s the same feeling I got every time I stood at the front of class at school doing a presentation, every time I performed in a concert in front of a hall full of people and every time I was about to step on stage at a dance show. On days when I can push myself to actually do it, it involves an awful lot of planning. That includes being certain of the following: when I am going to make the call, what number I am calling, who I need to speak to, why I am calling. I’ll sit and plan the conversation even. It sounds extreme, but it’s what it takes for me to be able to even find the number I need to dial. I will however go out of my way and do anything to not have to pick up my phone and dial a number at all. That includes, going online.
The norm, I assume, would be “I need to call so-and-so about such-and-such, I’ll go online and get their number and sort it right away”. The process for me however is more along the lines of “I need to call so-and-so about such-and-such. First of all I’ll go online to see if they have an email contact form, or a Twitter page, or a Facebook account”. There is no denying that it makes what should be a simple task, a really, long drawn-out task. I have put off making very simple, but very important phone calls for months because I can’t bring myself to call. It’s a strange one – the risk of the outcome from not calling, although HUGE, seems less scary than actually calling. I’m that fearful of it all that I never usually have my phone on loud because I’m scared it will ring, and I’ll sit and watch a number pop up on my screen and wait for them to cancel the call, before going online to see who it was. If I can’t find out who it was, I just pretend they never called. It feels very irrational and very strange admitting it.
I’ve been thinking about it a lot more recently as I am faced with more and more situations where I may perhaps need to use the phone but still choose not to. I’m no closer to understanding why this panics me and scares me so much, but I have been looking into it a lot more. One thing that I have thought of amongst the many conversations I have with myself about it, is this:
Does modern technology make anxiety worse?
Put like that it sounds like I have just come up with a bit of a sweeping statement and published it on my blog. Maybe I have. Who knows. But I still want to go into it, probably mostly rhetorically. I mean, for instance, is there a connection with the two? Do I struggle more with my ‘anxiety’ and fear of phone calls because I have access to an online world which holds most of the answers? Would I have still struggled 20 years ago when the whole internet thing wasn’t as big? If this is all connected, is modern technology therefore, in some ways, actually bad for our mental health?
It does make me wonder. Of course, I’m not going to get any answers right here and now and I’ll probably not get any closer to understanding if there is any truth behind what I’m thinking, but in my mind it does make sense. If I, in most cases, can find an answer online, does that make it even harder when I actually HAVE to make a call?
In other ways you could say that actually modern technology makes it better. If I can find answers online, or contact companies by Twitter or Facebook or E-Mail, then I don’t have to put myself through the stress of potentially having to make a phone call. But then that’s problematic in itself – avoiding an anxiety and fear that is so obviously there and pretending like it isn’t. It’s a tough one, but I just had to get this out.